January, 2005

With reports this month from Sea Angel on starting a new season in the Caribbean; from Sailors' Run on Vanuatu and black magic; from Hitchhiker on cruising the Great Barrier Reef; from Cheshire on outfitting a cat from thousands of miles away; from Maluhia on Coff's Harbor, Oz; from various Cruising Rallies around the world; and Cruise Notes.

Sea Angel - Peterson 44
Marc Hachey
Starting A New Cruising Season

I finally cut my Trinidad docklines loose and started cruising again - but it was very difficult getting away. I'd spent a month working on my boat while she was on the hard, plus another five weeks when she was in the marina. You'd think all my projects would have been completed, but they weren't! Nonetheless, after watching the online weather charts for a few days, I decided I would take off late the following day.

The next morning I still had a full page of last-minute tasks to do, so I got started early with the intention of setting sail at 5 p.m. Come 5 p.m., I was sitting at the fuel dock topping off my jerry jugs, having not slowed down for lunch - and I had still had a lot to do on deck before setting sail on an overnight voyage to Grenada. So I decided that I'd just motor out to Scotland Bay and anchor while I finished the last few tasks. After all, it would be safer for a night departure - especially as the new moon would provide no light from above. I worked until 10 p.m., stopping only to eat a tuna salad. When I finished, I decided I needed to rest before setting sail, as the 80 miles between Trinidad and Grenada can be rough. And being a tired singlehanded sailor is not a good thing if the fish scales were to hit the fan.

So I caught some sleep, and didn't get away until 4:15 a.m.. It was still dark, so I had to trust my electronic charts and radar to get me through the relatively narrow boca and out to the open sea. The weather charts had been accurate, so the seas were fairly comfortable - four to six feet being fairly comfortable for this part of the world. And since the wind was also a reasonably comfortabe 15 knots, I was able to sail. That was in the beginning.

By mid-morning, the squalls that had been forecast by Eric, the 6:30 a.m. weather guy, began to appear. The first couple were small and fast-moving, kicking the wind up to 20 knots with a little rain. When the entire eastern sky turned dark grey, I decided that it was time to put a reef in the main. Ah yes, the bitter sweetness of experience. And thank God! The next squall had wind to about 30 knots, and it was like driving through a car wash. But a nice freshwater rinse cleaned all the salt off the boat. This was how the rest of the afternoon continued, a splash of sunshine and a little rest followed by 'here comes another one'.

The sail plan on my Peterson 44 was perfect for the conditions, as I have a yankee cut 100% jib, a 110% staysail, and a single-reefed main. I actually started looking forward to the squalls because they would kick the boat speed up to 8+ knots. Yeah! I actually made fantastic time to the west side of hurricane Ivan-battered Grenada, where I dropped anchor just outside of St. George at 4:30 p.m.

Having had a good night's rest, this morning I'm ready to push north to St. Vincent, where I have a new 15 h.p. Yamaha reserved to go along with my new Carib dinghy. Although it's the last one in stock, they're selling it to me for $1,750 - which is way less money than in the States. But it's still a bit more than at St. Martin, where I was quoted $1,519!

Last season I stayed in the Windward Islands and had a great time getting to know the locals and the islands a little better. Alas, I didn't send any updates, but I'll try to do better this year.

- marc 12/01/04

Sailors' Run - Baba 40
Jeff & Debbie Hartjoy
Vanuatu & Black Magic
(Longbranch, Washington)

Debbie and I have sailed nearly 25,000 miles in the Pacific since doing the Ha-Ha in '99, and have always enjoyed interacting with the locals. When we left Fiji, we intended to do the same in Vanuatu, a most interesting and sometimes very primitive place. Formerly known as the New Hebrides, and jointly administered by Great Britain and France as a 'condominium government' until 1980, Vanuatu is located 500 miles to the west of Fiji. It consists of 83 lush but lightly-populated islands, some of which have active volcanoes.

Vanuatu has a population of just 200,000, most of whom are native-born Melanisians known as ni Vanuatu. Until the start of the twentieth century, they spoke 115 dialects and had 115 distinct cultures. More recently pidgin English - formally called bislama - has become the common language. Tribes on some of the islands - particularly Malekula and Ambrym - are home to some of the most primitive people left in the South Pacific. But because of the small communities of French, British, Australian, New Zealand, Vietnamese, Chinese and Pacific Islanders - most of whom live in Port Vila, and all of whom live in harmony with the ni Vanuatu - Vanuatu is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world.

We found Port Vila - the sleepy and compact capital - much to our liking. It's modern, quite clean, and has all the supplies we needed. The prices were a little higher then in Fiji, but nothing like French Polynesia. Having arrived in Vanuatu late in the season meant we only had a little over two months before the onset of the tropical cyclone season in November. But we liked Vanuatu so much that we pushed our luck and stayed through November. Having thus given ourselves a little more time, we punched in the waypoints for half a dozen islands we wanted to visit.

It was while in Port Vila that we first got wind of a Rom Dance Festival to be held in late October on the island of Ambrym. One of the reasons we didn't want to miss the festival is that Ambrym, considered to be an island of mysteries, is reputed to be the heartland of black magic and sorcery. The Rom Dance is an expression of the prevailing influence of spirits. In addition, Ambrym is famous for its drums, treefern carvings, sand drawings, and being home to two active volcanoes, Mt. Marum and Mt. Benbow.

Our last anchorage prior to Ambrym was at the southeast end of Malekula, which is also known for its primitive people. Ni Vanuatu from the smaller nearby islands came to Maleluka each day in dugout canoes to tend to their gardens. Over the course of several days, we'd established quite a trade with these folks. In return for our T-shirts and other items of clothing - which they are very much in need of - we got fruits and veggies.

Then a curious thing happened. A fellow in a small dugout canoe stopped alongside our boat on the way to his garden. While asking where we came from, he gave me such a puzzled look that I asked if anything was wrong. He assured me that there wasn't any problem - but said that if he wanted to kill me it would be very easy!

I glanced at Debbie, who looked concerned. Yes, the man said, it would be quite easy to kill me. So I asked how he would do it. He explained that he'd get just one hair from my head and take it to a certain man on Ambrym Island. That man would wrap the strand in a special leaf, do a special chant over it - and a short time later I would be struck dead by lightning!

"That's pretty amazing," I admitted. Our visitor smiled in agreement, then paddled off to his garden. Debbie just stood there, wondering what it was that brought the man to share such information with us.

It was warm and sticky that night, with very little breeze finding its way belowdecks. Debbie and I, both naked, tossed and turned in the V-berth - when suddenly we were jolted from our light sleep by a huge explosion off in the distance. Apparently, it was an eruption from one of the active volcanoes on Ambrym! It made me think about getting struck by lightning, so I wrestled trying to get back to sleep.

We weighed anchor early the next morning, and threaded our way through the barrier reef. Once on the open ocean, Sailors' Run bounded off on a brisk beam reach toward Ambryn Island. As we approached the island, we could see smoke and ash billowing out of both the volcanoes. The air smelled foul, and the dust irritated my lungs enough to make me cough. Debbie seemed less affected.

The ocean seemed alive, as there were flying fish taking to wing all around, and off our starboard bow we saw small tuna jumping 10 feet clear of the water! Suddenly a large billfish surfaced and took a whack at the squid we were trailing. I cringed thinking of what might follow. It turned out not to be a problem, as in one powerful swipe the billfish had broken the steel leader. This was not a major surprise to us, as since coming to Vanuatu we'd lost three squid lures and a whole reel of line to very large fish. In fact, we'd almost given up on the idea of being able to catch anything that we could actually land!

It was mid-afternoon by the time we reached the Ranon village anchorage. The black coral sand beach was lined with small bamboo huts that stood out from the jungle-covered hills leading up to the volcanoes. A man in a dugout pulled alongside our boat just as Debbie finished backing down on the anchor. The fellow - who bore a strong resemblance to the actor Eddie Murphy - introduced himself as Berry. As it would turn out, he would be a wealth of local information and become a very good friend.

On our second day there, we took Berry up on his offer to let us do laundry at his house. He had gravity-fed high pressure water coming down from the mountain. The clear water was good for both washing clothes and filling the tanks on our boat. While doing the wash, we met Berry's sister Elisabeth, a strong woman who helped Debbie and me with the laundry.

During the washing, I asked Berry about the practice of black magic on Ambryn. He said that he was aware of it, but in modern times it was only practiced by people in the interior villages - such as Fanla. Then I told him about the fellow who had told me about being able to have me killed by lightning. Berry admitted that this was one of their practices. He also said that in kastom (traditional) villages such as Fanla, they had an area set aside for special carvings and stones that was taboo for all but the high chief to enter. The items are said to hold many strong and diverse powers, and are chanted over by a select few from the village. Berry also explained that the people from his and other seaside villages - who had more contact with the outside world - would not be attending the Rom Festival, and that they have been drifting away from black magic.

Ambryn Island had struck Debbie and me as being special from the outset. For one thing, there are no roads, but rather many well-maintained trails that head off in all directions through the pristine jungle. Debbie and I enjoy running to stay fit, so each day we ran on the trails that left Ranon and wound along the shore - and through some banyan trees that were as much as 25 feet in diameter. The trunks of these trees defy even the worst of the cyclones that batter the island every few years. As we jogged, I also noticed the large tonka carvings. These are made from a log, have a head carved on the top, and a large slot cut in them. When pounded on, they create a hollow sound like a drum. The tonkas were built for communication between villages and are still used today.

Pigs are symbols of affluence on Ambryn. If a man wishes to marry a girl, he must compensate her father with pigs. If a man has no pigs, he will remain unmarried. There are lots of unmarried men on the island.

We went ashore at 8 a.m. on the day of the festival, and our guide lead us on a one-hour mostly uphill hike to Fanla. We were happy to have the guide, as the maze of trails was confusing, and we would have lost our way. Our guide explained that during the first day of the kastom ceremony we would be seeing four men promoted to the first of 13 levels necessary to become a high chief. The men, all sons of other chiefs, would be giving pigs to the high chief for the honor of being advanced to the new level of authority.

As we approached Fanla, we were watched closely by the 200 inhabitants, who were peering out of the bamboo huts that make up their village. There were also some chiefs from other kastom villages. These ni Vanuatu had very dark skin and extremely curly hair. They also had muscular builds, although more were thin. We did notice some locals with blond hair - a trait quite common to Ambryn. We also saw several albino ni Vanuatu who had all the same features as the dark-skinned people - except for their pearly white skin and curly blond hair.

Soon after we arrived, the dancing began. Based on the strenuous effort being made when singing and dancing around the village and into a large clearing, we knew we were seeing something special. The dancers wore nothing but nambus, which are penis wraps. Everything else just dangled in the breeze. Large tomba drums had been set up around the clearing, and the young men on their way to becoming chiefs danced 20 feet above us on a thatched roof over a sacred statue. The rest of the dancing was performed by a group of about 20 men, who danced in a group while the high chief, a most powerful and dignified man, circled around them chanting in what appeared to be an attempt to ward off or conjure up spirits. The high chief was decked out in ferns and a nambus. He also had a huge club that hung from his still powerful shoulders. The club was designed to kill rivals, and the chief - who we're told was 74 years old - looked perfectly capable of delivering a lethal blow.

There were several yachts that had joined us in the Ranon anchorage, and their crews at the festival - and frankly, it was somewhat reassuring to have some other white people around. After all, in the old days, you couldn't have a Rom Festival without a human sacrifice. We didn't see any human sacrifices, but we did see pigs and boars beaten to death with special wooden clubs just for the occasion. One such pig was hit no less than 10 times on the skull. After being down for a bit, he suddenly sprang to his feet and defied death for another 30 minutes - until the high chief decided it was time to dispatch him permanently.

The second day of the Rom Festival was even more exciting, as the men wore costumes made of banana leaves that covered their entire bodies, as well as sacred Rom masks. It is taboo for a woman to touch such a mask or for a Rom dancer to be touched. During this second day, the men in the middle dance nearly naked with the Rom dancers surrounding them. There are also other men in costumes who go around the outside of the group of dancers with sticks to keep people from getting too close. The young children were very much frightened of these men.

The high chief was obviously a very proud man, and he wore double circled boar's tusks. The tusks are rare in nature, highly-coveted, and are likely to only be owned by the high chief. Toward the end of the festival, the high chief passed back and forth in front of about 200 villagers, speaking in a loud voice about the importance of their culture, the value of pigs, and other things. This went on for a good 20 minutes in the fashion of a drill sergeant making a point with his troops. We didn't understand a word, but we could tell it was important, as nobody yawned or nodded off.

There's always one cruiser in every group, isn't there? One area of the village was taboo to all but the high chiefs. But naturally one cruiser didn't get the word, and stumbled off to the taboo area with his camera. Needless to say, he was grabbed by three very powerful men and taken away. I asked our interpreter if there was some way to see the area where the black magic was set up. "No," was all he said. He later explained that if anybody violated the taboo, there probably wasn't enough money to buy their way out. Feeling a little light on cash and having seen enough blood spilled from the boars, we didn't push it. We nonetheless walked away from the ceremony and village much enriched for the experience.

Black magic is very mysterious and interesting - as is any study of the supernatural. We heard many other stories about it elsewhere in our travels in Vanuatu. All we can conclude is that black magic is alive and well in that part of the world - which is a very long way from Ha-Ha stops such as Turtle Bay, Bahia Santa Maria, and Cabo San Lucas.

P.S. Yes, we're moving along pretty slowly. That's why it's a good thing we've set aside 15 years to do our circumnavigation. But we're still living and loving the dream!

- jeff 12/05/04

Hitchhiker - Crowther 45 Cat
David Hammer, Crew
Sailing the Great Barrier Reef
(Trinity County)

After 29 years of practicing law - it takes a lot of practice to get it right - I retired in June. I had planned to do the Ha-Ha aboard a friend's Hunter 35, but he had to cancel because of business reasons. So I went through my four-foot stack of Latitudes and found the April issue, the one with the 'Big Crew List'. I then sent emails to skippers in warm places who were looking for crew. I received several responses.

I had planned on sailing the Baja Ha-Ha sans spouse, but one email response I received was from David and Shirlee Goodgame, who own Hitchhiker, a 45-ft Crowther-designed catamaran sailing Australia's Great Barrier Reef. I have sailed Hobie Cats for years, but had never been on a large cat. Karen, my wife, said that sailing the Great Barrier Reef on a cat sounded like fun, so I immediately made plane reservations for both of us.

When we got off the plane on November 4, we were immediately immersed in the warm air and the flowery fragrance of tropical Australia. We took a taxi to the Cairns YC, where we were met by our host, David Goodgame, in his homebuilt aluminum punt. David and Shirlee Goodgame are a charming couple, and we could immediately tell that they really want their guests to have fun. They charge $300/week/person. This only covers their expenses, but it allows them to live a life that most of us only get to read about in Latitude.

Also onboard during our stay were three young ladies - two French Canadians and one French girl. All three are fun-loving 20-year-olds who were backpacking around the country.

After shopping at the farmer's market early the next morning, we motored out of the harbor and continued south a few miles to a secluded beach for lunch. The beach sand was covered with iron pyrite, which made it shine like 18-karat gold. After lunch, we sailed 18 miles offshore to Sudbury Cay, a sand island that's only 30 feet by 200 feet, and is surrounded by coral heads that the Aussies call 'bombies'. By this time we were out of sight of land, and the closest boat was several miles away.

After anchoring in 20 feet of water, we snorkeled over the coral heads to the cay, scaring off the noddies and terns. The water was crystal clear, and there were many colors of coral - blue, pink, black and red. Swimming among the coral were tropical fish of every color of the rainbow - and there was a giant Australian clam that measured two feet across. After diving to the bottom for a close-up look at a bright blue starfish, I came to the surface to see the sun backlighting the cat. It was inspired by the beauty and serenity of it all. 'Ah, this is retirement!', I thought to myself. Dinner was a delicious stir-fry, followed by chocolate cake made from scratch.

After less than a day, an easy camaraderie had developed among the seven of us onboard. Everyone helped cook and clean, while David, Shirlee, and I shared the sailing of the boat.

We awoke early on Saturday to a bright sun and flat and empty ocean. After a morning swim, we slowly motored over the coral, stopping to snorkel whenever we saw something interesting. The underwater visibility was about 70 feet, and every coral head seemed to feature different sea life. We even saw something that none of us could identify. It was kidney-shaped, blue and gold, and had in-and-out valves. After an hour of snorkeling, we sailed south to Russell Island, and later picked up a buoy at Norman Island, a National Marine Park.

I'd wanted warm on my sailing vacation, and I was getting it - for by 8 a.m. on Sunday it was already hot. While snorkeling off Russell Island, we saw a giant Australian clam that was three feet across! Its shell was open, and I was able to see through the tubes into the center of the clam. The mantle of the clam was iridescent red and blue from the algae it consumes. We also saw a prickly worm and trochu shells. The sea life on the Great Barrier Reef is terrific.

Shortly after we returned to the boat, Shirlee showed up with two women from Cairns. One had been an unsuccessful candidate for mayor and the other was an amateur marine biologist. We took their 14-foot boat to Round Island for more snorkeling, and saw turtles, interesting fish, and a huge table coral. Karen and I were going to snorkel back to Hitchhiker - until Karen spotted a large black tip shark. She got back into the small boat. Since I'm a lawyer, the sharks extend personal courtesy and never bother me. That afternoon we sailed north to High Island, which is another island in the Frankland chain.

Monday featured beachcombing followed by a sail in 15-knot winds to Fitzroy Island, which is a mountain top that was part of the Australian mainland until the last ice age. When the ice melted, it created a sea, leaving a 1,000-ft tall island offshore. Captain Cook landed on the island and discovered a freshwater spring - which was recently found to originate from the mountains on the mainland 18 miles away! There is a small resort on the west side of the island that caters to backpackers and others seeking value for their travel dollar. We went ashore to swim in the resort's pool and use the internet connection to check email.

The resort also has about 20 huge mango trees - which are about 150 years old - that were dropping fruit. The island also has what is commonly called 'stink' or 'vomit' trees. The berries secrete an odor strong enough to attract bats from the distant mainland. The bats fly out from the mainland at dusk and attack the stink and mango trees, causing many mangos to drop to the ground - where they are picked up the next morning by tourists.

There was to be no wasted time on this sailing trip, so on Tuesday morning we made the very steep 1.5-mile hike to the top of the island. From the summit we could see miles out to sea, as well as many islands and cays of the Great Barrier Reef. We continued our hike to the lighthouse on the north end, then cooled off by snorkeling for an hour. I saw a turtle, but unfortunately he did not want to give me a ride.

Our next sail was the eight miles to Green Island, which is home to a posh resort that attracts many day-trippers. We arrived about 3 p.m., when the day guests were leaving. The restaurant was empty and the hotel not busy. After a nice shower, we did some more snorkeling. One of the girls jumped into the dinghy like a live fish out of a hot frying pan. She'd been visited by another shark.

There was no rest for the wicked, and so we weighed anchor at 6 a.m. for the sail to Upolu Cay, where we started snorkeling by 8 a.m. We weighed anchor again for the sail to Valssoff Cay, where we enjoyed the best snorkeling of our trip - and that's saying something. The water was crystal clear, and the variety of the coral and fish were amazing. We saw clown fish, turtles, sharks, eels, hundreds of giant clams, angler fish, and many more.

There were some wealthy tourists sitting on the cay under umbrellas. We could tell they were wealthy because they were eventually picked up by a seaplane and helicopter. We ate lunch while sailing to Michaelmas, a bird sanctuary and nesting ground that was our third cay of the day. The water was not as clear as at Valssoff Cay, but I did see another turtle and another black tip reef shark. The shark was shy, but let me get close enough for a photo with my cheapo disposable cameras. We ended the day sailing toward Cairn, backed by the setting sun, on the wings of an 8-knot breeze.

As Karen and I showered and started packing for the trip home, Shirlee prepared our last onboard dinner - the best eggplant parmesan that I have ever tasted. During the meal we toasted our hosts for a truly fantastic week. We motored into the outer harbor in the dark, and dropped the hook a half mile offshore. I spent the night on deck because it was too warm for my berth.

The alarm went off at 4 a.m. because we wanted to be at the dock at dawn. I steered the cat down the shipping channel in the dark, navigating by the channel marker lights and the range lights. In Australia the channel marker lights are green-right-returning, the opposite of the U.S. system. Shirlee held the boat steady in the current while David took us to the dock in his punt. I hadn't been able to do the Ha-Ha, but what a fantastic week! We plan to sail on Hitchhiker again.

The Goodgames can be contacted by .

- david 12/05/04

Cheshire - Spindrift 40 Cat
Susan Ames
Bottom Fishing For A Cat
(Olympia, Washington)

By mid-December, I will have put in a full 15 years of indentured servitude to the state of Washington - and therefore earned some retirement - or else David and I might have made it across the Atlantic to the Caribbean for the holidays. But you do what you have to do, and we still hope to join up with the 2005 Puddle Jump - although we'd be starting from Panama rather than Mexico.

As you might recall, David and I went bottom fishing in the catamaran market by trying to find a decent used catamaran of at least 40 feet for under $100,000. Actually, I was hoping for a purchase price plus the commission to total no more than $100,000. Ha, ha, ha! But we think we got lucky by finding a 1973 Spindrift 40 in Cornwall, England, for $60K - which we bought last February. I wish I could give you a good description of her - but I haven't seen her yet!

Cheshire was sold to us by her original owners, who had cruised and chartered her for many years around England and in the Med under the name Hi Fi. The cat is sound, but has minimal and old gear - which wasn't that bad because it kept the price low and we would have wanted to put our own stuff on anyway.

David went to England early in the year to conclude the purchase and then again at the end of June to fix Cheshire up and sail her to the Algarve coast of Portugal with the aid of Sam Chapin of Corralitos, his lifetime partner in crime. They arrived last week and got the boat settled in Portimao. David says they hit 15 knots while planing on a close reach off Finisterre, and that Cheshire behaved very well. Upwind in bumpy seas was, of course, a different and less pleasant story.

We'd already bought a new main and spinnaker for the cat, but after that first lengthy passage, David wants a larger jib also. By the end of August, we'd already spent a total of $74,000 - but that doesn't count the new laptop, David and Sam's time working on the boat, or the new generator he had to pick up in Figeroa da Foz. I know we'll also want a new outboard, a stove with an oven, and some other goodies. So I bet we end up pretty close to the $100K target. But that means we'll still have a healthy cruising budget. We plan to be gone for two years. We probably won't circumnavigate - but you never know.

I've found it very interesting to try to prepare a boat for cruising from thousands of miles away. On the home front, we really do have to get rid of just about everything before we go, because we don't want to pay for storage. It's probably a good thing to do, but it's really hard for a couple of packrats.

So far the Pacific Northwest is still my top pick for where to live in the world, so we expect to come back to this area when we're done cruising. I feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to do this adventure, and to have such a great and capable partner/husband - who is doing most of the work right now to make it happen.

- susan 11/15/04

Maluhia - 38-ft Steel Cutter
Hans Regnery & Judy Coulter
Coff's Harbor & Bekana Resort
(Honolulu, Hawaii)

We haven't checked in for quite some time, but we've been busy cruising. Since we left American Samoa in '01, we've mostly been on familiar ground in Fiji, New Caledonia, and Australia.

We've spent quite a bit of time at Coff's Harbor in NSW Australia. Situated at 30ºS, Coff's Harbor is a very nice place to clear into Australia. Once primarily a harbor for fishing boats, it now also hosts racing sailors - particularly over the Christmas holidays - and cruisers. Because the rates are low and the security is good, it's also a good place for foreign cruisers to leave their boats if they want to fly home or travel inland. The area around Coff's Harbor is also very nice for relaxing and sightseeing. There are nature walks all around, and the harbor is situated between the mainland and the Muttonbird Island Nature Preserve. There are also lots of nearby beaches and good surf. All the supplies a cruiser might need are available in the immediate vicinity.

But after a time, Coff's Harbor became too cool for us, so we sailed back to Fiji to warm up - and that we did, spending the tropical cyclone season there. Fortunately, there were no tropical cyclones that hit Fiji that year.

For those who might be coming to Fiji, we'd like to put in a good word for the Bekana Garden Island Resort, which is near Lautoka and made our visit there much more enjoyable. Bekana is a new resort located on a small island just 1.5 miles northwest of the Queen's Wharf - where you check in. The Bekana folks are very yacht friendly, as they allow you to use one of a half-dozen new moorings for the price of an occasional drink or meal. They have a pleasant open bar and dining room, a nice swimming pool, kayaks, and a small beach. Snorkeling along the reef to the north isn't bad at all. Their accommodations range from air-conditioned units to backpacker tents and dorms. There is a boat that crosses between the island and the mainland many times a day, and it's reasonably priced. For cruisers preferring to drop a hook, the bottom is mostly sand and river mud in about 60 feet of water. Cruisers can take their dinghies across to the Queen's Wharf and tie up at the steps, where guards will watch over it. There haven't been any security problems in the Bekana Island vicinity. Thanks to dry and sunny weather, Lautoka being a major supply town, and all the other benefits, Bekana is a great place to spend some time.

A caution about leaving Fiji by plane. Judy's mother became critically ill after we'd been in Fiji for six months and just a week before we planned to sail to Wallis Island. (It's possible to leave one's boat in Fiji for a year, but it's very expensive for an individual to get a second six-month visa.) According to the officials in Lautoka, all was set for Judy to leave the boat for two months and for her to return. But in her haste - and with her lack of experience of leaving a boat in a foreign country - she neglected to take along copies of the boat papers, a letter from the captain, and a letter from customs to clear her way to re-enter Fiji. When she got to LAX to start her return trip, she only had the return part of her ticket and no paper evidence of belonging to a yacht. The Air Pacific staff almost weren't going to let her on the airplane. Fortunately, they were nice enough to allow her to call Mr. Atroni, the head of Immigration at Lautoka, who verified that she was rejoining the boat. Thanks are also due Roko, the manager at Bekana Resort, who allowed us to leave Maluhia on a mooring for the two months.

We'll drydock at Vuda Point Marina for a month to fix and paint things on Maluhia, then head to New Caledonia for the hurricane season. After that, we'll just have to see which way the wind blows!

- hans & judy 10/15/04

Readers - Hans and Judy sent us photos of the weatherclothes on their boat, which had the following messages: 1) Stop overpopulation with birth control. 2) Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. 3) Be a zombie and consume, be silent, reproduce, and die. 4) There is enough for everyone's needs, but not enough for anyone's greed. 5) Do not tolerate greed or corruption. 6) Live simply so others can simply live. 7) If one is content with a little, enough is as good as a feast. 8) Help save the planet earth, it's the only home that we have. 9) We must be the change we want to see in the world.

Cruising Rallies Of The West
Atlantic, Caribbean, And Pacific
Fall/winter is cruising rally season. Here's a quick review:

The 2,700-mile Atlantic Rally For Cruisers from the Canary Islands off Africa to St. Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean, which is the grandaddy of all cruising rallies, started its 19th annual event on November 20. Although there were 190 boats from 23 nations, there was actually a slight decline in participation from previous years. First-to-finish honors went to Mike Slade's R/P 92 Leopard of London, a lovely yacht with a full interior under charter to John Davis and skippered by Chris Sherlock. She crossed the finish line after 12 days, 1 hour, and in so doing nipped her much bigger rival Sojana, a Farr 115 ketch owned by GBR America's Cup founder Peter Harrison, and also Spirit, the Volvo 60 that owns the course record. Overall, it was a very light year, so even with most of the fleet being allowed to motor through the light spots, 55 of the 190 boats took more than 20 days to reach St. Lucia, and two were still at sea after 27 days. One of the more outstanding performances was turned in by Christian Martin's Outremer 45 catamaran Girolata which, although just half the length of Leopard, only took two days longer to finish. This was the last year for big and racy boats such as Leopard and Sojana in the ARC, as the organizers want to return the event to her cruising roots. As such, future entries will be limited to 60 feet. The hotter and faster boats will be directed to the World Cruising Club's sister transAtlantic event, the Rubicon Atlantic Challenge. More on that following the next paragraph.

The only West Coast folks we know who did the ARC was the Malmut family of San Diego aboard their Beneteau 47.7 Flying Shadow. They did surprisingly well, finishing 51st of 190 on elapsed time, and crossing the line after 17 days, 14 hours. Parents David and Darlanne, plus son Bruce (7) and daughter Abby (5), had been cruising the Med for three years - sort of by accident. They'd initially planned to cruise for just six months, but when they saw what a great time the kids were having, they extended it for another 2.5 years. Now, however, they are returning to California to enroll the kids in formal school. But here's a tip for those of you who homeschool your children. In order to get their kids into the right mindset for their onboard classes, Bruce and Abby were required to dress in the uniforms they'd worn while attending school in Malta. Plus, they had to refer to their instructor as 'Miss Darlanne' - not 'mommy' - when class was in sesson. It reportedly helped.

The Rubicon Atlantic Challenge, a sister event to the ARC, started from Lanzarote in the Canaries on November 20, bound for Jolly Harbor, Antigua, some 2,800 miles away. All 14 entries were from Europe. We presume there was no motoring allowed in this event and that there wasn't much wind, for the first boat to finish, the Oyster 56 Oyster Rose II, took 17 days to complete the course. Most perplexing of all, however, is the fact that Golden Opus, a lovely Opus 73 and the biggest boat in the fleet, finished last in 27 days, 3 hours. We suspect there is more to that story.

After a three-day delay to the start because of bad weather, the West Marine Caribbean 1500 Rally from Hampton, Virginia, to Tortola in the British Virgins, finally got underway on November 10. For those who thought the Ha-Ha was challenging, consider what the folks on the East Coast had to go through to get to the tropics. After most of the fleet motored across the Gulfstream in blessedly light winds, on the fourth day they were hit by 35- to 45-knot winds and correspondingly large seas - as had been forecast by Commander's Weather. The last couple of days were terrific, however, with glorious reaching in 15 to 20 knots in ever-warming weather. Line-honors were claimed by Bob and Mallika DeHaven's Virigina-based Oyster 62 Mistress Mallika, which finished the 1,500-mile course in 6 days and 13 hours. Corrected-time honors went to Bill and Diana Quinlan's Jackonsville-based Taswell 58 Special Delivery.

Curiously, the 46-boat Caribbean 1500 fleet had to be split into a 23-boat Cup Class, where times were taken, and a 23-boat Cruising Class, where times weren't taken. The Cruising Class had to be created for boats whose insurance companies informed them that if they participated in "a timed event, with a start and a finish," their deductible would double and their sails and rig wouldn't be covered at all. A bunch of participants who didn't have to join this class nonetheless did so because of its more casual nature.

There were medical personnel and an ambulance at Paradise Marina waiting for the arrival of the 40 or so boats that participated in the first-ever Three Days To Paradise Rally from Cabo San Lucas to Nuevo Vallarta following the Ha-Ha. Nobody had been hurt or injured, it was just the staff from the Amerimed Hospital in Puerto Vallarta welcoming everyone with complimentary basic health checks. In some sailing events participants can win their weight in rum. In the Paradise Rally, six participants won complete medical check-ups - including a heart test on a treadmill! There were plenty of other good prizes, too, including a small outboard motor, free golf at the Paradise course, a week's stay in the Paradise Resort, a free haul-out at Opeqimar Boatyard, and much more. Doug Campbell, Vice Commodore of the Vallarta YC, which co-sponsored the event with Paradise Marina, figures the total value of the prizes was over $10,000. The big lessons from this year's event: 1) The participants would have preferred to start just one day after the Ha-Ha awards party and not hang around Cabo any longer than necessary; 2) There were too many parties and events; 3) Most of the festivites should be held at the Vallarta YC - which is convenient and has its own pool and hot-tub - as opposed to all over Banderas Bay.

Two more rallies have been proposed. One is the OECS Rally in the Windward Islands of the southern Caribbean - which sounds as terrific as the name is awful. It starts in St. Lucia on December 27 - hoping to pick up a lot of boats from the just-arrived ARC Rally - then heads south to St. Vincent, Bequia, Carriacou, and some other islands before reaching Grenada, then backtracks north past St. Lucia to Martinique, Dominica, Guadaloupe, and ends up in Antigua. It's basically six weeks of visiting nine countries, most of them the less-visited and less-developed ones in the Caribbean. If it's at all well-organized, we would love to do this one next year. Because the route backtracks, a nice feature is that boats can drop out and rejoin as their schedule permits. The event is put on by the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and the various departments of tourism and marine trade associations in the nine countries. About a year ago, a United Nations study revealed that tourism by boat brought more money to these islands than did cruise ships, so the countries are trying to capitalize on it. We wish them tremendous success - but they need to get a website up and running.

To conclude our reports on rallies, Lodewijk Brust, John Hoedemakers, and Jolanda Geerdink, from the boats JoHo and Mistral, and all from the Netherlands, have announced the first ever Vasco de Gama Turkey to India Cruising Rally. It's to start in October of next year. "The idea is to do the Red Sea slowly in order to fully enjoy the beauty of the place," they say. "The event will be a tour, not a race, and we're only going to allow a maximum of 25 boats. More information can be found at www.vascodegamarally.nl." [Note: this site did not come up when we tried it.] But in all honesty, most cruising boats are going in the other direction at that time of year, and few cruisers visit India because it is said to be home to the most unspeakable bureaucratic horrors. But who knows? By the way, the fee for a 44-ft sailboat going through the Suez Canal is $400, but there's about $100 in other fees in Egypt. A six-month visa for India is $80.

- latitude 38

Cruise Notes:

Sailors making the passage between Cabo and P.V. have never really been sure how far they've been required to stay away from the Tres Marias Islands, which are a Mexican prison about 75 miles northwest of Punta de Mita. But now Bob Grimes of the Seattle-based J/41 Air Power can report, with certainty, that it's 12 miles. You see, while making the 300-mile passage from Cabo to P.V., Grimes became tired, in part because his autopilot broke. Not realizing that the Tres Marias are forbidden islands, he dropped a hook off the biggest of them to catch some shut-eye. A short time later, guards with guns boarded his boat and separated him from his crew. He was then instructed to take his boat to the island's main wharf, which was about two hours away. Worried, Grimes set off his EPIRB, but left it down below, covered with a jacket so nobody would know. That's probably why the signal wasn't picked up. Before reaching the wharf, Grimes turned it off anyway, no longer so concerned for his safety. After meeting with the prison honchos, all of whom - except for the head of security - were very friendly and shook his hand, he was definitively told that all vessels must stay 12 miles away. An exhausted Grimes asked if he could anchor in the little bay for the rest of the night. "You leave right now!" said the head of security. As you might imagine, that's exactly what Grimes did. If we're not mistaken, the prisoners are allowed to roam freely on the island, and even have their families join them. We're told that some like it so much they don't leave - even after they have served their sentences.

Of all the boats that were signed up for the Ha-Ha but didn't make the start, the one we missed the most was Caballo Blanco, Mike Pyzel's Santa Barbara-based Cal 28 that he stretched to 30 feet. We first met Mike back in '78 when he raced his little boat in the first ever Singlehanded TransPac to Kauai. Subsequently, he did charters with Caballo Blanco to Santa Cruz Island, and has sailed over there 500 - that's not a typo - times! More recently, he's been doing surveys. In fact, one of the reasons he and his lady Kristen missed the Ha-Ha is that he was surveying so many Ha-Ha boats that he didn't leave enough time to get his own boat ready. Mike and Kristen did make it to Mexico, however, and here's their report:

"While some of the Ha-Ha fleet battled southerly winds on the way to Turtle Bay, Kristen and I were deluged with two inches of rain at The Isthmus at Catalina. At least we didn't have headwinds. We did, however, catch the eclipse of the moon. This was my first run down the coast of Baja with Caballo Blanco, and I found it a most rewarding experience - and a great way to spend a month. Most anchorages were like the ones at San Miguel or Santa Rosa Islands - you hide behind a headland and hang on with one huge hook. Incidentally, my boat is named after an esoteric mariachi song that is part of every Mexican kid's cultural history. Having such a universally recognized 'Mexican' boat name always brings a broad smile to the faces of officials - and might have even facilitated our paperwork. At Cedros Islands, for example, the port captain checked us in - then closed shop to take us on a sightseeing tour! And at many of the isolated Baja anchorages, panganeros greeted us by shouting, "Hola Caballo Blanco" as they passed by. In the States, Caballo Blanco is just another goofy boat name - and is often mistaken for Cabo Blanco.

"Our brief visit to Cabo San Lucas was valuable in that it reminded me of why I like being anchored in isolated places that don't have an American influence," continues Pyzel. "We did, however, get great service at Marina Cabo San Lucas. But then we were outta there for Los Frailes, where we met some Ha-Ha boats that were hoping for the northerlies to subside to something manageable - like 20 knots - so they could continue on up to La Paz. In the previous 10 days, they'd recorded gusts to 50 knots from the north. As it turned out, La Paz wouldn't be in the cards for us. We gave it one more shot, leaving Frailes heavily-reefed, but after 12 miles we'd had enough. We happily shifted to Plan B, which was to ride the 30-knot winds on a delightful overnight reach across the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlan. We've found Mazatlan to be a delight, and the staffs at Marina Mazatlan and El Cid Marina to be extremely helpful to cruisers. We're staying here for Christmas. My nearly 17-year-old daughter Mara will be coming to visit, and hopefully her stay will help her get an 'A' in Spanish at Santa Barbara High. Anyway, thank you Poobah for encouraging us to cruise Mexico."

"Marina Mazatlan hosted its annual Mazatlan Thanksgiving Cruiser Feast for more than 100 cruisers as a benefit for the Ciudad de los Niños orphanage," report Michael Fitzgerald and Sylvia Fox of the Sacramento-based Mapleleaf 48 Sabbatical. "After a great event that included a traditional dinner, dancing, and fireworks, a delegation of cruisers from the marina delivered the pesos and food to the orphanage. The Ciudad de los Niños, which is run by several nuns, is unique in that it adopts the children for life. Currently they have 52 children - and an assortment of friendly dogs. We were taken on a tour of the facility, which was immaculately clean and spacious - if sparsely furnished. During the tour we were told that the hot water heaters were no longer working, and they were boiling water to wash the dishes, clothes, and so forth. Since a lot of cruisers can relate to having to live with only cold water, within 24 hours cruisers from the three Mazatlan marinas - Marina Mazatlan, Isla Marina, and El Cid Marina - had raised nearly $500 U.S. to buy and install the water heaters. The orphanage should have plenty of hot water in a week. By the way, we're told it's best to give commodities and services to charities in Mexico, not cash."

"Thanksgiving in Mazatlan is a gala time of year for cruisers," agrees Steve Hersey of SeaScape. "Marina Mazatlan puts on an extravagant party, but it's a little too expensive for those of us with small boats and small budgets. So a group of us from Isla Marina found an affordable alternative in Munchkins, a local eatery that is home to the infamous Thorny Surf Burgers. They put on a Thanksgiving feast that included turkey, ham, stuffing - all the goodies you'd expect. For us, Munchkins was surely the best Thanksgiving deal. As we continue to cruise, we'll continue to look for the best deals."

We love to get 'best deal' reports from folks no matter where they are cruising. But please, include the prices and a reasonably good description of what you're getting. And naturally you won't want to forget the first and last names of people involved, boat names, boat types, and hailing ports. This latter information makes the magazine so much more interesting to read. Gracias.

Carl Heckel sends us the latest on his father, Harry Heckel of the Dreadnaught 32 Idle Queen. At age 87, Heckel is only a couple of hundred miles from completing his second circumnavigation. When he does, he may be the oldest person to ever have gone around alone.

"Dad called from Key West and sounded well, although he's been having some circulation problems. In fact, when we were in Panama, we spent a day at the hospital and at pharmacies trying - unsuccessfully, as it turned out - to get his prescription for pain pills filled. We hope he gets more medical attention now that he's in the States and before he gets worse. Dad encountered a series of storms off the Yucatan that did some damage - including causing a turnbuckle to fail on the lower end of the split backstay. Dad was worried the failure might cause the mast to fall, but he was able to effect a temporary repair at sea. But he was greatly slowed, as he couldn't risk carrying too much sail. With regard to another problem, he's found a way to short the starter switch to the motor so he no longer has to start his Saab diesel by hand. Some of us think he would be better off just replacing the starter button and wiring. Having taken a month's dockage in Key West, it looks as though he won't complete his second circumnavigation until early in '05. Incidentally, he says it was a real challenge to find a berth in Key West, as the hurricanes have left more boats than berths. Even the Key West moorings, almost always vacant, were fully occupied."

In our recent interview with Mike Harker, he said that sailing author Nigel Calder had told him that more people have been into space than have sailed around the world. We told Harker we thought Calder was mistaken, and we have some corroborating evidence. In the booklet sent out about Ellen MacArthur's attempt to break the singlehanded-around-the-world record with B&Q Castroama, it was noted that while more than 1,800 people have reached the summit of Mt. Everest, 450 people have been in space, and 12 people have stepped on the moon, only one sailor - Frances Joyon with the 90-ft trimaran IDEC - has sailed around the world non-stop in a multihull. Well, Latitude's West Coast Circumnavigator's List is up to about 140 boats, and most of those trips were made by at least a couple, so that's a minimum of 300 people from the West Coast alone who have sailed around the world, so certainly there's many more than 450 sailors who have circumnavigated. Maybe Harker misunderstood Calder, and the author meant that fewer people have singlehanded around the world than have been in space. That's probably true, but Harker has no intention of singlehanding around the world.

"Our old Wylie 65 Saga - which was built by Arlo Nish of the Bay Area, who circumnavigated twice with her - is now Sequoia, has a blue hull, and lives in the Pacific Northwest." So reports Matt Stone of Northern California. "Her new owner is Robert Dietrich, who used to live in Marin County, and who did the first Ha-Ha in '94 aboard the S&S 63 Cascade with wife Holly and their children. Cascade is a sistership to Siete (and Rewa), which was owned by my father-in-law, Bill Stewart. It's a small sailing world. Sequoia no longer has the original dinky mizzen mast, but Arlo's built-in vodka tank lives on! As for my family, we're down to a JY-9!"

It was great to hear from Jeff and Debbie Hartjoy of the Baja 40 Sailor's Run - see their Changes in this issue - because they are both so enthusiastic about . . . well, just about everything. We don't think anybody who was at the 1999 Awards Party will forget Debbie describing how the two of them managed to 'relieve the watch' one windy night on the Ha-Ha. The doublehanders had the chute up when the wind came up strong. They decided the safest course of action was for Jeff to continue driving, which he did for hour after hour. This arrangement worked well, with Debbie bringing food and beverages as needed. But then Jeff, who absolutely couldn't leave the helm, absolutely had to take a pee. With no other course of action possible, Debbie appeared with a bottle, unzipped the fly on Jeff's pants and, as he continued to drive, placed his 'nozzle' in the mouth of the bottle. Gawd, what relief! It was a great example of teamwork - and a much-appreciated awards ceremony story.

"A couple of mentions of Bahia Asuncion in Latitude piqued our interest about the place," report Stan and M.J. (no last name given) of the Valiant 40 SolMate, "so we decided we'd check it out on our way down the coast of Baja. We first made the requisite fuel stop at Turtle Bay, and were thrilled with the convenience of the Servicios Anabell fuel barge - which comes right to your boat and has a good pump and filtering system. We also enjoyed the Revolution Day activities with the locals, but after five days hadn't found it as charming as we'd hoped. So we hopped 50 miles down the coast to Bahia Asuncion. What a breath of fresh air! They have everything Turtle Bay does except for the fuel barge. Surprisingly, there's a nice internet cafe with six computers and, contrary to what the cruising guides say, plenty of food and beer. In fact, the tiendas and restaurants are easy to find, as is diesel. Sheri, a former Canadian cruiser who responds to Sirena on VHF, hailed us on our way into Bahia Asuncion, and graciously offered to help us get acquainted with the anchorage and town. She later invited three boatloads of cruisers ashore for lunch and great conversation. We learned that she and her daughter Sirena have bought property near the point and, with the help of husband Juan, are developing a 'yacht club' for cruisers. Eventually it will have all the services cruisers need. She also offers excursions to cool sites such as Bone Valley and the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve. Sheri and Juan are also establishing a B&B at the fishing village of San Roque, one bay north of Asuncion. Check it out!"

Tim Schaaf of the Moorings 4500 cat Jet Stream was a little reluctant to admit that his new-to-him cat had slammed into an (unlit) offshore weather buoy. But if our report from Driscoll's Boatyard in Mission Bay is accurate, he's in good company. For the word on the dock is that Warwick 'Commodore' Tompkins' Mill Valley-based Wylie 38+ Flashgirl, having just started on a long-anticipated cruise, slammed into a buoy and had a bite taken out of her bow. Shit really does happen, even to the best of boatowners. Also hauled at Driscoll's were Hasso Plattner's MaxZ86 Morning Glory, which he'll race with Russell Coutts at the helm in the TransPac against Pyewacket; the Lee 67 Merlin, which is apparently going back to a fixed keel; and the sled Taxi Dancer.

J.R. and Lupe Dipp of Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta are having a heck of a time buying a catamaran to replace Moon and the Stars and their other boats. First they bid on the Bernhard Family's Catana 58 Aurora, which they had sailed across the Atlantic three times. But they couldn't quite agree on a price. Then they agreed to a price on a cool-looking Aikane 56 that had been built in Trinidad. The deal looked so promising we prematurely reported that it was a done deal. But Lupe says at the last minute the owner produced a 23-page sales agreement and asked them to pay the import duty that had been due from when the boat had been brought into the States. J.R. and Lupe walked away from that deal. Most recently, they've put an offer in on Kimba, a Catana 471 that was sailed across the Atlantic by a Seattle family two years ago. We'll see how this chapter of their boatbuying novella turns out.

What's the buzz, Blair? Another boat that missed the start of this year's Ha-Ha was Blair and Joan Grinols' 46-ft Capricorn Cat from Vallejo. Blair had to rebuild both his daggerboards and do other boat work, and it took much longer than he thought. They finally left in early December, and froze as they motored down the coast to Point Conception, where they were hit by 15 to 20 knots of headwinds. So they took a slip at Santa Barbara, where Blair dove in the chilly water to clear the kelp around the hull appendages. Even with a wetsuit it was a cold dive. But that was an easy problem to solve compared to the engines overheating at higher revolutions. Worrying that the manifolds were going bad, Blair finally took the whole suction housing apart - and found the entry to the strainers to be plugged with dead bees. They were souvenirs from being on the hard at Napa Valley Marina over the summer. Several days later, there was more overheating, and even more dead bees blocking the flow of water. Things didn't get any better going down the upper coast of Baja. First the wind came up to 35 knots from the northeast with such big seas that they had to run off with it. The waves were so big and steep that they caused one of the newly-replaced daggerboards to snap off. "We're now licking our wounds in Turtle Bay," writes Blair, "where it's still two-sweater weather and we're trying to decide if its worth the rush to make it to Mazatlan for the cruiser Christmas. But we've not been having any fun yet."

There are no guarantees, of course, but for people who like warm temperatures and prefer not to be punished by strong winds and big seas, we think late October and early November - right after hurricane season and just before winter storm season - is the best time to get south to Cabo. Similarly, if anyone wants to make it up to La Paz, we'd sure try to get north by the middle of November.

Cruising plans are written in sand. Last year John Haste sailed his San Diego-based Perry 52 cat Little Wing from Nicaragua to the Caribbean for the winter season, stopping in Cartagena long enough to have a great time and be robbed at gunpoint of all his boat electronics. This year he was going to sail his cat to Houston to be as close as possible to a real estate venture - but then he got to thinking about how much he missed racing in the not-too-serious Banderas Bay Regatta against his cat friends Blair Grinols on Capricorn Cat, David Crowe on the Morrelli-Choy 70 Humu-Humu, the Latitude crew on Profligate, and whatever other boats with more than one hull showed up. "I've had so much fun playing with the other multihulls in Mexico over the years that I couldn't miss it again this year. So we'll be sailing the boat from Cartagena - where she is again - to Panama, to the Galapagos Islands, and then up to Paradise Marina in early March for the Banderas Bay Regatta. And Paul Biery of the Emeryville-based Catana 431 New Focus better come back up from Zihua for that event, too. I've got a new overlapping genoa, and I'm looking to beat everyone!" He was laughing when he wrote that.

What's on the horizon for this winter?

The Fourth Annual Zihuatanejo SailFest is February 2-5, and has all kinds of great sailing and shoreside activities centered around what is perhaps the cruisers' favorite town in Mexico. It's all for a great cause, too, the Netzahualcoyotl School for indigenous children, most of whom are orphaned and need to learn Spanish to survive. See www.zihuasailfest.com for details.

The 7th annual Pacific Puddle Jump Party, February 28, is limited to folks headed across the Pacific this year. Co-sponsored by Latitude and Nuevo Vallarta's Paradise Marina, there will be seminars, festivities, and interviews by Latitude 38.

The Pirates For Pupils Spinnaker Cup will be held on March 11 on Banderas Bay. Everyone gets to dress up like pirates and wenches to help support the school in Bucerias. The fleet meets at Punta de Mita for lunch as well as fun and games in pirate attire, then sets chutes for the 12-mile spinnaker run to Paradise Marina. It might be your sweetest sail in Mexico this season, and all for a good cause.

It's just a couple of months to the 13th annual Banderas Bay Regatta, the biggest cruising regatta in Mexico, and certainly one of the best in the world. You just can't beat the pleasant sailing conditions of Banderas Bay, the great facilities at nearby Paradise Resort and Marina, and the casually competitive attitude of the cruising skippers. It's a blast, and it runs from March 12 through the 15th, with racing on the 13th, 14th, and 15th. The dates are just a little unusual, in that it starts on a Saturday and ends on a Tuesday. We don't know why that is, but we do know that you don't want to miss it. We'll be there with Profligate, and we hope you'll be there, too. Make sure you have a couple of clean shirts for the parties, particularly the Awards Party on the 15th, which is more or less the cruisers' ball for the season. For vessels signed up for the regatta, there will be a 50% discount on slips from March 10 through March 16, but reservations are first-come, first-served. In addition, the Paradise Resort has special room rates for regatta participants, but you must sign up prior to February 26. If you haven't sailed in Mexico, this is a perfect opportunity to hook up with a boat and become acquainted with the cruising life in Mexico. For complete details, visit banderasbayregatta.com.

Good news out of St. Martin in the Eastern Caribbean. International Coastal Clean-up Day has taken hold in St. Martin, particularly on the Dutch side. At Mullet Bay Beach alone, 72 bags of trash were collected from the waterfront. In addition, an underwater clean-up netted 18 sacks of debris, with more expected to be extracted next year. In addition, a lot of money has been spent to beautify Phllipsburg, which has really needed it. Now if they can just do a little about local attitudes toward tourists, money might really start pouring in and much-needed jobs will be created.

If you're out cruising, please be careful! One night in November, ConsuMate, Rick Whitfield's Richmond-based Hunter 29, missed the entrance to Nuevo Vallarta and went up on a beach in front of a hotel. Thanks to efforts by Marina Paradise's Dick Markie and others, she was saved, but it was close. More on that next month.

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